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White Paper on bilingual education in Chinese schools 8th Dec 1953

On 8 December 1953, the British colonial government issued a White Paper, Chinese Schools – Bilingual Education and Increased Aid, that proposed a scheme to implement bilingual education in Chinese schools.[1] This was part of a move to create a common education system in Singapore where all schools would use the same curriculum, textbooks and medium of instruction.[2]

The White Paper outlined the offer of government financial aid to Chinese schools on the condition that their curriculum be redesigned not only to equip students with a working knowledge of English and Chinese, but also to nurture them as loyal citizens.[3] To be eligible for the government aid, schools were required to devote more time to English lessons as well as to other subjects taught in English, for example, mathematics and science.[4] In addition, schools had to submit a draft constitution, a detailed statement of estimated income and expenditure, forms showing the conditions of service for each staff member, and a statement of the measures the school would undertake to introduce bilingual education.[5] Moreover, an inspector of schools would visit at least once a term to assess the schools on their physical conditions, administration, staff qualifications and competence, timetables, syllabuses, textbooks, and their pupils’s standard of attainment.[6]

Chinese educators and community leaders strongly opposed the scheme for they saw it as an attempt by the government to interfere with the autonomy of Chinese schools, and anglicise Chinese education to the detriment of the Chinese language, culture and identity.[7] They also felt that the $1.16 million set aside for Chinese schools was insufficient considering the staggering $26 million that was budgeted for education in 1954.[8] A 17-man delegation comprising representatives from the various Chinese schools and the Chinese Chamber of Commerce was subsequently formed in January 1954 to renegotiate the conditions of the White Paper.[9] The delegation appealed to the government for increased and unconditional financial aid to Chinese schools.[10] While the men managed to convince the government to raise the grant-in-aid amount to $12 million, they were unsuccessful at repealing the conditional aspect of the scheme.[11]

1. Colony of Singapore. Legislative Council. (1953). Chinese schools - bilingual education and increased aid. (p. 1). (Command paper, Cmd. 81 of 1953). Singapore: [s.n.]. Call no.: RCLOS 371.9795105957 SIN.
2. Schooling for all is our aim, says Nicoll. (1953, October 21). The Straits Times, p. 8. Retrieved February 4, 2014, from NewspaperSG.
3. Colony of Singapore, 1953, p. 1.
4. Colony of Singapore, 1953, p. 6.
5. Colony of Singapore, 1953, p. 4.
6. Colony of Singapore, 1953, p. 6.
7. Gopinathan, S. (1974). Towards a national system of education in Singapore, 1945–1973. (p. 12). Singapore: Oxford University Press. Call no.: RSING 379.5957 GOP.
8. Gopinathan, 1974, p. 12.
9. Aid without strings, say Chinese schools. (1954, January 10). The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Chinese education 17 to meet Govt. today. (1954, January 11). The Straits Times, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
10. 2-tongue Chinese school policy may now be modified. (1954, January 12). The Straits Times, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
11. The Chinese schools may get $12 mil. (1954, October 7). The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.


The information in this article is valid as at 2014 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

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